Learning to Listen: Conversations for Change Archive


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Learning to Listen: Conversations for Change is a free webinar series that offers virtual conversations with inspiring leaders working on the frontlines of current and emerging issues for children and families.

All Learning to Listen conversations are one-hour long and feature live Spanish translation, closed-captioning, and an interactive Q and A. Register today and join the conversation!

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Learning to Listen 2022

Last fall we talked with Geoffrey Canada, a leading advocate for children and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone; Melissa Walls, Ph.D., an Anishinaabe social scientist working in collaboration with Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada on health equity research and culturally relevant public health programming; and Linda Smith, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Council’s Early Childhood Development Initiative.

Episode 1: Meeting the Challenges Facing Our Children and Youth with Geoffrey Canada
Wednesday, September 28, 2022, at 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT

Geoffrey Canada, Founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, shared with us what he is learning with children, parents, and teachers about the many ways in which the pandemic continues to disrupt children’s learning, development, and well-being, and his call to action — for all of us.

Canada is a leading advocate for children and an innovator in the field of education. He grew up in one of the most devastated communities in the United States, the South Bronx, raised by a single mother. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College, and eventually went on to earn a master’s degree at Harvard University. He vowed to help children who grew up in disadvantaged circumstances to succeed through education.

Canada created the Harlem Children’s Zone, a birth-through-college network of programs that today serves more than 13,000 low-income students and families in a 97-block area of Central Harlem in New York City. The unprecedented success of the Harlem Children’s Zone has attracted the attention of the media and leaders around the world. In 2011, Canada was named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine and as one of the 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine in 2014. President Barack Obama created the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone model across the country,

Canada has been profiled extensively in the media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Forbes, among others. He was featured in the documentary about the dire state of American education, Waiting for Superman, and has received more than 25 honorary degrees, including ones from Harvard University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Dartmouth University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has also influenced a new generation of education reformers through his writings, including essays in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, as well as two critically acclaimed books on poverty and violence: Fist Stick Knife Gun and Reaching Up for Manhood.

After 30 years with the organization, Canada stepped down in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone but continues to serve as President. In June 2020, Canada founded The William Julius Wilson Institute (WJW), which will serve as the national platform to help communities impacted by poverty across the country design and implement their own place-based programs — and its first initiative will be to combat the devastation of COVID-19 in the Black community.

View the recording

Episode 2: Celebrating Indigenous Family and Cultural Strengths & Promoting Health Equity with Melissa Walls, PhD
Wednesday, October 26, 2022, at 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT

American Indian and First Nations (hereafter Indigenous) communities are home to countless cultural, community, and family strengths. Yet, in the face of colonization and resulting health inequities, these strengths are often missed, uncelebrated, and/or misunderstood in health research. Innovation in the ways we engage with, celebrate, and assess Indigenous sources of strength is a critical step forward for equity-driven research. This presentation shared examples of Indigenous family strengths in the forms of benevolent childhood experiences, positive cultural identity, and other socio-cultural factors. Research from ongoing tribally-based participatory research studies reveal how these strengths are associated with positive health outcomes and thus represent important protective factors for promoting Indigenous well-being in holistic ways.

Melissa Walls, Ph.D., is an Anishinaabe social scientist working in collaboration with Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada on health equity research and culturally relevant public health programming. Dr. Walls is an Associate Professor of American Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Director of the Great Lakes Hub of the Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health.

Dr. Walls serves as the principal investigator with a longstanding research team that includes Anishinaabe community members and academic researchers working together to understand and address the social, historical, and contemporary determinants of unequal health outcomes.

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Episode 3: Listening to What Voters Want for Children with Linda Smith
Wednesday, December 7, 2022, at 3 PM ET / 12 PM PT

We listened with Linda Smith, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Council’s (BPC) Early Childhood Development Initiative, as she discussed what the 2022 midterm elections told us about who is listening to the children, and their families, and what we can expect policymakers — on both sides of the aisle — will and won’t do on their behalf.

Previously, Smith served as the executive director for the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), where she represented more than 650 community-based agencies concerned with the care of children in their earliest years. Key components of NACCRRA’s advocacy efforts included strengthening childcare licensing and oversight, requiring comprehensive background checks, and establishing minimum training requirements for all childcare workers.

Smith most recently served as the deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this role, she provided overall policy coordination for the Head Start and Early Head Start programs and the Child Care and Development Fund. She also served as the department’s liaison to the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies.

Smith served as a legislative fellow and professional staffer on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Prior to this work, she was the director of the Office of Family Policy for the Secretary of Defense, where she was one of the primary architects of the military’s childcare program. Additionally, she has held positions with both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. Smith began her career in early childhood education on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in her native state of Montana. She is a graduate of the University of Montana.

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